This morning, 13 students in the Arctic College’s Environmental Technology Program in Pond Inlet began a journey south, first to Ottawa, then to Quebec and finally to Vancouver. Some are veterans of southern travel, others will be south of the Arctic Circle for the first time.

They’ve teamed up with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Arctic Connections program in an effort to build stronger long-term north-south relationships leading to increased sharing of perspectives and knowledge. The barriers that often inhibit effective solutions-oriented dialogue, after all, are not due the differences between northern and southern Canadians; they more often result from a lack of understanding of our commonalities. And while it is not difficult to learn about our differences from afar, there remains no substitute for time spent together to truly learn and appreciate our similarities.

In Ottawa, the students will meet with representatives from INAC, the Canadian Polar Commission and Parks Canada. In Quebec, they’ll meet with ArcticNet and the Centre d’etudes Nordiques. They want to gain better understanding of southern Canadian perspectives on the North and northern issues, how resource management decisions are made and research agendas are set–all of which impact the daily lives of northerners. As the very people who will be engaged on HTOs and Hamlet Councils, reviewing proposed research and working with southern research and decision-making bodies, this understanding and perspective is critical.

“Nunavut citizens are very concerned with how research projects are thought up…how does a research project start, how do they decide what methods will be used to conduct research in the North?”
-Sam Arreak

At the same time, the Aquarium requires a better understanding of Inuit perspectives, cultural, social, nutritional, political and economic relationships with the northern environment, and the ways in which we all impact and are impacted by northern issues.

While in Vancouver, the ETP students will review our exhibits and programs, interact with Aquarium visitors, and participate in both formal and informal exchanges of information and perspectives with VA staff and volunteers. They will participate in the Aquarium’s educational programs such as the Intertidal Marine Biology program and The Art of Experimental Design.

Both the VA and the ETP are committed to maintaining the individual and institutional relationships developed during the trip. The trip is intended to establish a long-term relationship that will facilitate exchange of information, ideas and perspectives and ensure that what was gained during the visit is not lost over time. We will draw on these connections as new programs, exhibits and initiatives are developed.

“But the most important thing is for us to understand how people in the South think about the Arctic, so we can educate them using our knowledge and skills.”
-Ivan Koonoo

Over the next two weeks we’ll provide updates and highlights of the expedition and some of the we learn along the way.

“This trip will benefit both groups (Inuit and Southerners) as it would trigger our minds to think differently and gain new perspectives.”
-Jeffery Killiktee

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